UT star gets SEC soccer honor

After spearheading the Lady Vol soccer team's road sweep of Mississippi State and Ole Miss, junior striker Rhian Wilkinson (Baie d'Urfe, Quebec) was chosen as the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday afternoon. For her efforts, Wilkinson was also named as the Lady Vol Athlete of the Week for the third time in her career, edging out freshman swimmer Noelle Bassi (Franklin Lakes, N.J.), and senior Kelli Scott (Peoria, Ariz.), an outside hitter on the volleyball squad.

Wilkinson becomes the fourth different player from Head Coach Angela Kelly's club to earn the department's weekly honor this fall, joining sophomore midfielder Kayla Lockaby (Hamilton, Ohio - Sept. 10), senior forward Kim Patrick (Pleasanton, Calif. - Oct. 7) and senior goalkeeper Ellen Dean (Memphis, Tenn. - Oct. 14). The forward also became the second player from UT to earn the league's weekly accolade more than once, as she had been recognized previously as a rookie on Oct. 30, 2000.

''Rhian is very deserving of this recognition,'' said Kelly. ''She is deceivingly fast and unpredictable and has been a mainstay for our offense. I am proud of her for all of her efforts this season; as a captain, she is leading our team tremendously on and off the field.''

On Friday afternoon in Starkville, Miss., Wilkinson banged in a loose rebound at 59:36 to help the Lady Vols forge a 1-1 tie with the Bulldogs, who claimed the West title in 2001. With 21:43 remaining in regulation, the Canadian combined with senior Jen Laughridge (Wilson, N.C.) to set up Patrick with the eventual match-winner. Her sixth score of the campaign was the 20th of her collegiate career, enabling her to become the initial Lady Vol player to reach 20 goals and 20 assists. She has now accumulated 65 points on 21 goals and 23 helpers, pulling her closer to Laura Lauter Smith's chart-topping 75 points.

The forward delivered a perfect feed to Lockaby in the second sudden-death session that resulted in a Golden Goal as the Lady Vols upended the Rebels, 2-1, on Sunday. The helper was Wilkinson's SEC-leading 13th assist of the campaign, resulting in a single-season mark for Tennessee. Earlier in the match, she had evened the contest at 1-1 by connecting on a rebound of a shot taken by sophomore defender Keeley Dowling (Carmel, Ind.) at 22:14. Wilkinson's total of 27 points is four shy of Patrick's junior class record established last year.

Wilkinson rates second on the Big Orange scoring chart with her seven goals and 13 assists and is tied with Patrick for the club lead in SEC play with 12 points on four goals and four assists. She is within striking distance of her career-best of 33 points set as a rookie in '00, when she was tabbed as the league's Freshman of the Year.

Awaiting the release of the latest weekly polls, No. 16 Tennessee (12-5-1/5-2-1 SEC) will complete its regular season by hosting Georgia (8-9-1/4-4 SEC) on Friday night at 7 p.m. UT can claim its first Eastern Division title by defeating the Bulldogs. The Orange and White was in a similar position last season and suffered a 2-1 setback to the Dawgs in Athens.

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